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The Rise of the Toronto Region as a Global AI Hub

With the recent expansion of Salt Lake City-based bio tech company Recursion Pharmaceuticals in Downtown Toronto, and Salesforce’s announcement of their $250 million Generative AI fund, AI is top of mind in the Toronto Region.

In recent years, Toronto Region has become a global hub for artificial intelligence (AI) due to a combination of factors, including its world-class education system, talented workforce, industry support, and the presence of top AI companies. This has led to a thriving ecosystem of startups, multinational enterprises, and research institutions that are pushing the boundaries of AI innovation.

Future-Proof Talent Pipeline

A key factor contributing to the Toronto Region’s success in AI is its world-class education system. The region is home to several top-ranked universities, including the University of Toronto, which consistently ranks among the top 10 universities in the world for computer science.

These institutions attract top talent from around the world, with a 61 percent increase in international student enrolments over the last five years. Within STEM disciplines, that figure is even higher – 78 percent. One-fifth of immigrants to the Toronto Region have a STEM degree, making it a magnet for global talent.

Toronto Region’s talented workforce is also a major contributor to its success in AI. According to CBRE’s annual Tech Talent report, the city boasts the most tech employment growth in North America from 2016-2021, and over 110,000 people immigrate to the Toronto Region each year, twice as many as the San Francisco Bay Area.

This has led to a diverse and multicultural workforce that is well-equipped to tackle the complex challenges of AI innovation.

Innovation Ecosystem

The presence of AI leaders in the region has played a significant role in the city’s rise as a global hub for AI. Many multinational enterprises have chosen Toronto Region as the home for their AI R&D (research and development) centres, such as Samsung, Sanofi, and Nvidia.

With nearly 50 percent of Canada’s CIFAR (Canadian Institute for Advanced Research) AI Research Chairs based in Ontario, and the presence of leading AI research institutions such as Vector Institute and the University of Toronto, establishing in the Toronto Region offers companies a strategic advantage. From access to leading AI researchers to partnerships across academia and industry, the possibilities are endless.

Toronto’s strong network of incubators and accelerators, such as MaRS and NextAI, have also supported the growth of world-renowned AI companies in the region.

Deep Genomics, a leader in AI-powered drug discovery, Radical Ventures, a Venture Capital organization dedicated to investing in AI, and Cohere, a generative AI firm specializing in natural language processing (NLP).

The AI ecosystem expands across the region through academic institutions like Durham College’s AI Hub and Vector recognized AI Master’s programs at York University, Ontario Tech University, Toronto Metropolitan University and the University of Toronto.

Postsecondary institutions like this breed innovation. For example, a Toronto-based startup  led by a UofT alumni and Co-founder of the Vector Institute called Signal 1 AI Inc, has developed a machine learning tool called CHARTWatch, which analyzes commonly collected hospital data to predict patients’ diagnoses that are likely to deteriorate. Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga has recently adopted this technology to improve patient care and identify when a patient is ready for their next stage of recovery. This will help hospitals establish and prioritize proper patient flow activities.

This demonstrates how a supportive ecosystem such as this one, spans far and wide. A solution developed in a specific jurisdiction is not limited to that area and accelerates other players in the entire region and beyond.

Government and Industry Support

Industry support and government initiatives have been instrumental in building out Toronto’s AI ecosystem. The Canadian federal government has invested heavily in AI research, with a $125 million investment in the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, which aims to position Canada as a global leader in AI.

Collision Conference brought on the announcement of new AI-focused funding by the Government of Ontario, who have committed $77 million in funding for the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence and the Ontario Centre of Innovation, to support a new Critical Technologies Initiatives program.

This funding will help companies in the Toronto Region adopt, develop and bring to market critical technologies, with a focus on Ethical and Responsible AI. These new government and industry support initiatives allow the Toronto Region to stay ahead of the curve and continue to set itself apart as a global leader in AI innovation.

Conclusion

A world-class education system, talented workforce, supportive industry and government initiatives, have all facilitated Toronto Region’s emergence as a global hub for AI. The Region has become a destination for AI talent and companies from around the world, and its supportive environment has helped to foster innovation and research. With continued government and private sector support, Toronto Region’s diverse tech ecosystem is the ideal location for AI companies to grow.

Want to tap into the Toronto Region’s AI ecosystem? Let’s chat!

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